US President Donald Trump has revealed today that he could ban some domestic flights to and from coronavirus hotspots in an attempt to curb the spread of the outbreak. While some airlines have taken it upon themselves to stop flying to COVID-19 hit areas, most continue to fly despite warnings from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Considering halting flights
President Trump is reported by CNBC today to be mulling the possibility of instigating a ban on some domestic flight routes in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus. He is considering stopping flights to areas worst affected by COVID-19, and is contemplating similar restrictions on rail travel too. CNBC reports that he said,
“I am looking where flights are going into hot spots. Some of those flights I didn’t like from the beginning.”
Despite considering pulling the plug on some services, Mr. Trump said he did not support a blanket grounding of all domestic flights. He noted that he would make a firm decision on this action ‘soon’. He is quoted as saying,
“Closing up every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very, very rough decision … But we are thinking of hot spots, where you go from spot to spot, both hot.”
When asked about restrictions on rail travel to and from affected areas, Trump said that it would be a ‘similar situation’, suggesting he could also place trains on lockdown too.
Which areas could see flight bans?
According to figures from John Hopkins University, the US has reported more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 to date. Almost half of these (84,000) have been reported in the state of New York, along with 2,200 fatalities.
Outside of New York, the next worst affected areas are New Jersey with over 22,000 cases, California and Michigan with almost 10,000 each, and then Florida, Michigan and Massachusetts with around 7,000 a piece. If Trump does instigate a domestic flight ban, it’s likely these areas will be the ones targeted.
Airlines all over the US are rapidly grounding planes amid a significant slump in travel demand. Carriers including Delta, American and United have made deep cuts to schedules, leaving usually busy airports looking like deserted ghost towns. It is expected that the ongoing lack of demand will lead to more schedule cuts in the coming weeks.
The Financial Times reports that travel restrictions and a lack of demand are seeing airlines in the US burn through $10bn in cash each month. While the US has earmarked a $50bn bailout for airlines, a prolonged outbreak could see even this not being enough.
However, Trump seems rather reluctant to instigate any major shutdown, saying that such decisions were “very big decisions from the standpoint of the future of our country in a way.” He reiterated that the absolute goal was to get the country moving and back to work quickly in order to maintain the economy.
What do you think? Should Trump ban domestic flights to coronavirus hotspots? Let us know in the comments.